What are the Prospects for a US War with China?

Was Barack Obama’s “pivot to Asia” the signal for a coming US war on China? Is the current clash between the US and China a confrontation between an empire in decline and an empire on the rise? Does China entertain imperial ambitions? Is China really a “threat to peace”? What would be some of the consequences of a US military conflict with China? How might such a conflict start? Is China an innocent victim at the receiving end of US aggression? Is the US an innocent victim, defending helpless allies against Chinese expansionism? Is the clash between the US and China one that can be understood in terms of “capitalism vs. socialism”?

John Pilger’s The Coming War on China (2016), which runs for one hour and 53 minutes, is said to be Pilger’s 60th film, which by itself is quite the achievement. The documentary was filmed over a two-year period in the Marshall Islands, Japan, Korea, China and the United States. Few can deny the amount of work that went into the film. This film has already been widely viewed and reviewed, but not necessarily applauded. Pilger tells us that the film was also pirated and shown in China, and it has since been made freely available by Pilger to be viewed online (see below). (Not knowing that in advance, as usual I took the trouble of traveling to a library to get a copy.)

Pilger makes it clear that the situation confronting China in the South China Sea is a direct result not of Trump’s aggression (in the first instance), but rather the policy put in place by his predecessor, Barack Obama. The film is appropriately critical of Trump too. After all, if Trump was truly keen to shred Obama’s legacy, he would not be continuing, extending, and deepening Obama’s policies on China (and Venezuela). In an interview, Pilger said the following about Trump: “Trump is cartoon-like and slightly unpredictable; otherwise his foreign policy, such as it is, is consistent with US designs for dominance since the Korean War in the 1950s”.

To be frank, my first inclination was to view anything by John Pilger with great sympathy—he is an institution more than just a “journalist” or documentary filmmaker, and I usually tend to agree with a great deal of what Pilger has to say. In Pilger’s field, few are the committed life-long anti-imperialists, which also says a great deal about his field. Being aware of this inclination on my part, I decided to challenge myself, to put my sympathies aside and ask some basic questions: Does Pilger make a coherent and convincing argument? Is the film one that could be useful in a classroom setting, in other words, is it informative or does it create so many gaps and contradictions that the instructor would be burdened with the labour of just cleaning up the film’s contents? What assumptions are present in the film? Are the motivations in making the film clearly stated, or are they implicit and require decoding to filter them out? Is the film compelling or is it alarmist? Is it interesting to watch, or is it “old hat” and predictable? If I had the resources to make such a film, how might I have done it in a different way that would make for an improved contribution to public debate?

A Brief Overview of the Film (and Preliminary Critique)

Since this is one of those very rare instances where the documentary reviewed here can also be viewed in full online, without any restrictions (see below), I will provide only a brief overview. Otherwise, reviews on this site usually break down a film to such a degree that one should be able to learn as much from the reviews as from viewing the films themselves, some of which take long to obtain via inter-library loan. John Pilger says that he structured his film into five chapters, not that the time allocated to each is equal.

It’s a reviewer’s cliché to say “its strengths are also its weaknesses,” but I am afraid that this does apply to Pilger’s film. There are five chapters to the film, some of which might have stood as separate films in their own right, and at least two of them are exceptionally good.

Chapter 1, which is untitled in the film, is a part that occupies a disproportionate amount of the film’s entire time (its length is about 34 minutes). This part focuses on US atomic testing in the Pacific from the late 1940s to the late 1950s, presenting us with a truly shocking statistic: “From 1946 to 1958, the US exploded the equivalent of one Hiroshima bomb every day in the islands”—that is, on average, one atomic bomb every single day for 12 years. The film then goes into detail about the horrific biological and environmental consequences for the inhabitants of the region, the paltry assistance they have received from US authorities, and the kind of socio-economic apartheid in which they live, in the shadow of richly supported US missile bases that double as resort spas for American military families. At the end of this chapter Pilger explains that, “the largest of the Marshall Islands, Kwajalein, is home to one of the United States’s most secretive bases, a missile launch pad designed as a ‘stepping stone to Asia and beyond’ and aimed at China”.

There is little room to doubt that what the US has done to the inhabitants of the US occupied Marshall Islands constitutes a series of egregious crimes against humanity. If there is a “threat to peace” in the Asia-Pacific region, one need not look past US borders to find the culprit.

Chapter 1 could have stood as a documentary film in its own right, and probably should have been presented as such. When clumsily cobbled together with the rest of the film, suddenly its strengths begin to look like weaknesses.

Chapter 2, titled “China Rises” in the film, runs for 26 minutes. It begins by focusing on China’s experience as a country that was plundered by imperialist powers, including the US, from the mid-1800s to the mid-1900s. The film details the extent of anti-Chinese discrimination that was official policy in the US—at the very same time as the “Statue of Liberty” was erected (contrary to the immigrationist myths of the sanctity of this statue’s message, as told by liberal polemicists today). The film also makes the argument that the industrial revolution was funded by the “illegal” opium trade. Pilger, with the aid of a historian, discusses how not just the Forbes family, but also the ancestors of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, built their fortunes from the opium trade. FDR’s grandfather was a drug runner. This part of the film then switches to China’s struggle to achieve independence from imperialist rule, led by Mao Zedong.

It’s in this part that Pilger advances the awkward thesis that “China has matched the US at its own great game of capitalism, and that is unforgivable”. However, since American capitalists have flocked in droves to invest in China, it does not seem like “forgiveness” is even an issue. That aside, Pilger’s thesis would also run counter to theories that US imperialism is dedicated to the spread of capitalism.

This part of the film could have been dropped from the final product. It is too full of inconsistencies, contradictions, and gaps, and it shows that when it comes to China’s historical development, and its current domestic socio-economic situation, Pilger is way out of his depth. At the very most, this part could have been uploaded to YouTube, with the caveat that it was a rough draft.

Chapter 3, titled “Resistance,” runs for 25 minutes. It focuses on the anti-base movements in Japan and South Korea, that involve local and national mobilizations against the presence of US military bases. In Japan, the film focuses on the anti-base movement in Okinawa, and its political victories. Pilger documents the abuses and destructive impact of the US base. Japan is being used as missile base against China, and thus this part is relevant to the film. The second part focuses on a similar anti-base movement in South Korea. Pilger is very successful in integrating “human interest stories” in this part, by focusing on the work of key activists.

This part of the film, like Chapter 1, could have stood as a separate documentary film in its own right. However, it would also need to incorporate coverage of US aggression toward North Korea.

Chapter 4, “Empire,” lasts roughly 10 minutes. It almost exclusively focuses on the military aspects of US dominance. As such, it involves a reductionist and over-simplified understanding of “empire,” one that can be graphically shown in pictures of the number of US “bases”—over 4,000 in the US itself, and over 1,000 US “bases” abroad. (Pilger uses the term “base” to include any sort of installation that serves the US military, even if there are no US military personnel present. It is a popular way of speaking of the international US military presence.) Pilger, with those he interviews, insists on seeing the US empire in strictly territorial terms—the “archipelago of bases”—which at the very least is a misunderstanding of the nature of the “new empire” that the US represents, which does not rely on direct, territorial control.

This part of the film is too short to stand as a separate documentary in its own right, and yet it sits uneasily within the larger film. At the very least, however, with some further work it could have been made directly relevant to the main theme of the film.

Finally, chapter 5, which has no title, is a brief part that lasts about 10 minutes and it brings the film to a close. Its ostensible focus is the question of what would be the consequences of nuclear war. This was an unusual presentation, because it was both alarmist and boring at the same time. It was alarmist because it seemed to push the frightful idea that there could well be a war with China. Boring was the recycled, old hat about nuclear winter, etc., etc. As one viewer, I did not appreciate the tiresome repetition of the trope of playing American patriotic songs while showing old footage of nuclear explosions in the Pacific, nor the ending of the film which rips off Dr. Strangelove with its choice of closing song.

This “part” of the film was of course relevant to the main theme, but was not particularly exceptional material, nor was it novel.

Pilger’s Case for a Coming War on China

“The aim of this film is to break a silence: the United States and China may well be on the road to war, and nuclear war is no longer unthinkable”—John Pilger.

“One myth, that really needs to be dispelled is that, somehow, China is aiming to replace America and it’s going to run the world. Well, first of all, the Chinese are not that stupid”—Eric Li, Chinese social scientist, quoted in the film.

Having distinguished himself for his consistent anti-war positions, it should not be surprising that the military moves and preparation for war are at the heart of John Pilger’s film. As Pilger shows in one of his articles about the film, the leading point is Obama’s 2011 “pivot to Asia,” which was a military pivot:

“two-thirds of US naval forces were transferred to Asia and the Pacific…. 400 American bases surround China with ships, missiles and troops, in an arc that extends from Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India”.

Pilger also repeatedly describes the US in militaristic terms: “the United States, the world’s biggest military power,” and he speaks of “the US’s already overwhelmingly superior military position in the region”.

Secondly, Pilger’s argument is that the US sees China as an enemy, and that such an approach is not justifiable. His film is thus also about directly challenging the notion that China is an enemy of the US.

So how would a “war on China” happen, and why? Here Pilger becomes less clear in his writing—and is even less clear about it in the film, despite the title—but he seems to be suggesting that the US has manufactured a threat and this, coupled with its military repositioning, represents “the beckoning of a nuclear confrontation”. Pilger reads a great deal into the US preparations for war, both military and now economic:

“In 2015…the US Navy and its regional allies, including Australia, rehearsed a blockade that would cut China’s lifelines of oil, trade and raw materials. Today, President Trump is waging a trade war against China, where the United States’s biggest companies, such as Apple, are based: the source of a trade deficit for which China is cast, in Trump’s world, as the ‘bad guy’. In the meantime, China has built military airstrips in the disputed Spratly Islands, in the South China Sea, and is reported to have placed its nuclear missiles on ‘high alert’”.

Military preparedness, in Pilger’s framework, bleeds into being prepared to go to war—when the two things are actually quite different. One may prepare for war, and never be actually “prepared” to go to war, the latter referring to one’s disposition, willingness, and intention. Pilger does not ask if the flexing of military muscle is meant to achieve effects in the economic arena, even when the only war the US has actually undertaken is a trade war. Elsewhere, Pilger does make the point that, “losing its economic prowess, Washington has turned almost obsessively to its military might” but then he adds, “and the prospect of nuclear war is no longer unthinkable”.

Criticisms of Pilger’s Argument and the Film

First, let’s start with criticisms of some of the basic elements of the film, in addition to those mentioned in the overview of the parts of the film. As already noted, the first chapter is devoted to the subject of US atomic testing in the Pacific. This took place over half a century ago, and it started before there was a revolution in China that brought the Communists to power. We are shown the horrific consequences of US atomic testing. Apart from a brief mention, almost easy to miss, that there is a “secretive” US missile base (all bases are “secretive,” and there is nothing especially “secretive” about this one) with its missiles aimed at China (we do not actually know that), there is no apparent connection between this material and the main argument of the film. I could not understand how a film, with this title, could begin this way. What was the point Pilger was trying to make? Was it that the US has a long career of being aggressive and nasty, and if we witness the crimes it committed against Pacific islanders, we should then be prepared for it do awful things to China? Was it to show the US as being the region’s bad actor? Was it about preparing us to understand that China is surrounded by an arc of military bases? However, even on that point the film is dubious, though he shows roughly the same graphic of the spread of US bases three times in the film: the same arc he depicts, covering such a wide geographic area, could just as easily be used to make an argument for a coming war on North Korea, a coming war on Iran, a coming war on Russia, or a coming war on any other country in this vast expanse that might one day challenge the US. What it does not prove is that China is the primary if not exclusive target. Since Pilger is not absent from the film, and narrates it throughout when he is not on camera, there was no excuse for him not to interject explanations that would render his film more focused, coherent, and convincing.

Secondly, Pilger’s film overstates the impact of opium on funding US industrial expansion. It certainly mattered, but as one factor among many others, including the exploitation of oil resources at home, plus US territorial expansion, and its dominance over numerous Latin American and Caribbean neocolonial dependencies that furnished the raw materials and the labour that permitted US growth. It’s also not clear what he means by an “illegal” opium trade—too many states were openly and officially engaged in the opium economy for it to have been illegal. Which laws were being violated, Pilger does not say, and in any case it does not really matter one way or the other.

Third, the film does very little to convincingly explain either how or why full blown nuclear conflict between the US and China could occur. What would be the triggering events? Would it be the result of an accident that leads to escalation? It’s unclear what Pilger is trying to argue, and why he chose such an alarmist and arguably misleading title for the film.

Fourth, if we agree with Pilger that China is unjustifiably demonized by successive US governments, and the media, as an “enemy,” then what is China in geopolitical terms? Is it a friend of the US? A collaborator? A rival, competitor, or “adversary”? It’s not clear what Pilger thinks China is, apart from not being an enemy. Let’s turn to some reviews written by others for more to think about.

A review by Jeremy Hammond of Foreign Policy Journal endorses Pilger’s analysis of the threats posed by the US, but takes apart Pilger’s muddled representation of China’s rising economic prowess. In the film, we are told that: a) China has lifted millions of its citizens out of poverty, and, b) there is growing and extreme inequality in wealth that keeps millions in poverty. Indeed, that contradictory narrative is present in the film, it’s not Hammond’s imagination. Also not invented by Hammond is the film’s contention that China has a market economy, but it is government controlled—which would mean that it is not a market economy.

Hammond for his part adopts a pro-market perspective which he thinks was “inconceivable” to Pilger: “that it’s the market that has pulled millions out of poverty and the government’s bungling effort to centrally plan the economy and its inequitable redistribution of wealth that has impeded this progress”. As a libertarian, Hammond is compelled to make this argument—but it too makes little historical or logical sense: capitalism is not about eliminating inequality and ending poverty. Those are simply not the objectives of capitalism, they never have been, and they are not the operating concerns of “markets”. What both Hammond and Pilger seem to miss is that millions of Chinese were “lifted out of poverty,” but many more were left in poverty, and overall wealth inequality has increased. China’s model is that of state capitalism, so any analysis that opposes the state and the market as existing in a dichotomy, would be mistaken—and on this point Hammond agrees. At the very least, this sort of discussion acts as a major distraction from what was ostensibly Pilger’s central purpose in making the film. For example, there are no illusions about contemporary Russia being a socialist economy, and the fact that it is not is still irrelevant to understanding the ongoing and escalating tensions/conflict between the US and Russia. Some in the US have a problem with Chinese power—because it is Chinese power—whether that power owes its dynamics to government control and/or market vitality is in fact an irrelevant theoretical point.

Writing in The Diplomat, David Hutt also advanced a series of criticisms of Pilger’s film. Hutt is particularly sanguine, much more so than Hammond:

“Pilger’s loathing of the United States has led him to produce a film that acts as an apology for Chinese totalitarianism, distorts the truth about Asian politics, and presents China as a passive victim in a potential new superpower war. Actually, my sympathy for his intellectual descent is less sincere than my anger; what I watched was an incendiary spectacle that manages to circle the triumvirate of narcissism, ignorance, and propaganda”.

Specifically, Hutt had at least one criticism in common with mine: “I found myself asking as the [40 minutes] sequence [on the Marshall Islands] ended, what does this have to do with the topic of the documentary: escalating tensions between the United States and China in the 21st century?” As he notes in addition: “except that the Marshall Islands are home to U.S. missile bases, there appears to be no other connection to the rest of the documentary”. This is a problem caused by Pilger’s weak authorial voice in the film, contra Hutt’s inflammatory criticisms above. Even worse, Pilger’s absent explanations leave the film wide open to distracting reinterpretations, inviting the kinds of polemics produced by reviewers like Hutt—it sets the stage for a comparison between the US and China’s human rights records, a comparison that is hardly relevant to the film. What Hutt does not say, and I would agree with it if he had, is that Pilger simply does not spend enough time analyzing China to do its situation any justice. Thus an editorial decision needed to be made: whether or not to leave out China’s post-revolution development history. Rather than do a big job poorly, I would have advised Pilger not to even try—because it is also irrelevant.

A review in The Guardian, which was generally sympathetic to Pilger’s film, also politely criticized it for essentially whitewashing China’s own human rights abuses. If Pilger did not want this sort of argument to distract from his film, then he is smart enough to know how not to open the door to such arguments. Instead, Pilger essentially walks past the door in the film, points out “oh look, there’s a door here,” and then proceeds to show us that the door is also unlocked.

A review in the Sydney Morning Herald, generally calm and reserved, appears to fault Pilger for “perhaps over-emphasising the American risk and downplaying the significance of the Chinese build-up in order to make his point”.

Pilger, for his part, is certainly good at grinding out a mass of details (let’s call them the trees). What is woefully underdeveloped is the analysis and the narrative that logically and convincingly puts all of his many trees together into one forest. Pilger simply has a lot of circumstantial evidence, and sensationalist statements from sources, that together create a kind of forward momentum pushing his fear. What he does not have is anything that could be called a theory.

Absent from the discussion is whether the US is trying to scare China into a costly arms race that might significantly slow down, if not reverse, China’s economic gains. Such a deliberate attempt to scare China might also strengthen the hands of Chinese nationalist communists who might want to limit the country’s exposure to US economic penetration in the form of investment. It is speculative, but so is the “war on China” theme.

Two more absences were striking. One was the absent discussion of how the US was apparently reversing its policies toward China, inaugurated by Richard Nixon, and under particular challenge now by Donald Trump and his former adviser, Steve Bannon, both supposedly counselled by Henry Kissinger. However, absent a US rapprochement with Russia, alienating China could consolidate its move toward strengthening ties with Russia. How, the US strategist might ask, would a powerful superbloc spanning from Europe to the Pacific be in “America’s interests”? Secondly, Pilger never mentions the degree to which China—in becoming a factory to the world powered by super-exploited workers—has created a global downward depression on wages, cost the jobs of millions, and thus served as an essential pillar of the neoliberal world order.

Can the Criticisms be Criticized?

With respect to the film’s chapter 1, dealing with US atomic testing, it appears that Pilger’s point was to show the devastating consequences of nuclear war, and thus to underscore the risks for us all of a direct military conflict between the US and China. As Pilger says after landing on the highly irradiated Bikini atoll, “it was a vision of what the world can expect if two nuclear powers go to war”. That is a fair point, and since many among the younger, post-Cold War generation seem to be oblivious to this ongoing risk, it was something well worth emphasizing. However, it could also be seen as alarmist scare-mongering, meant to frighten viewers and thus provoke an emotional response. Pilger’s point is that nuclear war could happen, but he does not show us why it would happen, and even less is it a prediction of the events that ensure it will happen.

As for the focus on China’s economy, Pilger told a journalist that what he was juxtaposing here was the fact that, “a strange and dangerous atmosphere currently separates the world’s greatest military power, the United States, and a country that will almost certainly become the world’s greatest economic power, China”. This, then, makes more sense—and he could have made this plain and clear in his film: the primary contest between China and the US is between an economic superpower and a military superpower. China is not yet a world military superpower that rivals the US, and thus casting it in bland generic terms as a “threat to peace” serves to mask the actual, historical operations of US power.

Hutt’s following point was a solid one:

“It is only in the last 30 minutes that the viewer actually gets to hear anything about the coming war. Though, 30 minutes is far too long. Indeed, this 122 minute documentary only makes a few boilerplate points: U.S. military bases ‘encircle’ China, Obama has spent more on nuclear weapons than any other president, and U.S. military officials tend to speak in a gung-ho fashion about war. Here, I agree with Pilger. The United States has built bases that surround China, the outgoing administration is spending more on nuclear weapons than predecessors, and military officials aren’t the most softly-spoken people in front of cameras”.

However, Hutt disagrees that any of this proves that the US is either encircling or threatening China. While I too doubt that the encirclement is exclusively focused on China, it’s not an accident that, a) the US has planted so many military installations, and, b) that the US has chosen to plant them in specific locations that form a pattern. Hutt seems to be taking US penetration for granted, and thus does not see it as problematic. I also do not think that Hutt is being honest when he quotes the US’ force multipliers as being “nervous” about Chinese power, thus suggesting that the impetus for confronting China comes from them and not the US. If they are nervous, it is precisely because they placed themselves on the front line in serving as force multipliers of the US—ultimately, the analysis still has to resolve to the root of the problem, which is the US.

The perfectly reasonable question that Hutt raises, and which deserved an answer, is why if the US is really bent on war with China, has it not attacked already? What is the US waiting for, especially as China continues to advance its military? The answer takes us back to Pilger’s weak authorship and deficient analysis: what should have been his focus is not the suggestion that the US is somehow seeking direct military conflict with China, but rather that in projecting power the US is creating the conditions for an unforeseen escalation. Others, writing about the “Thucydides Trap” (see the articles listed at the end), do instead make this point, and elaborate on it considerably. Without going into detail, Hutt also seems to be aware of this argument, which he calls a “more nuanced understanding”—and he proceeds to offer his own list of recommended sources. Otherwise, Hutt makes his anti-China, anti-Russia, liberalist inclinations all too clear by the end of the review, and these biases call into question everything else in his review. If Hutt thinks that Hillary Clinton was instead the answer, he is smoking something rather too pungent for my liking.

Pilger at one point seemed like he might have been vaguely aware of such arguments. In an article in CounterPunch, he wrote: “nuclear war is no longer a shadow, but a contingency”. A contingency is not a certainty, it is a possibility. However, further on in the same article Pilger quotes influential US sources that “think the unthinkable” in developing an outline for a war with China. Indeed, Pilger continues to discuss what he thinks would be the “accident”—that in mounting conventional military strikes on Chinese soil, the US would force China into a nuclear response. Thus, if anything, Pilger reaffirms his insistence on the “war on China” theme, and he appears to be arguing that this a decisive, calculated US strategy. In that case, back to the same question above: why has the US not attacked already?

While Pilger took an alarmist turn in CounterPunch, elsewhere his responses to questions were much softer. In an interview with Al Jazeera, Pilger was asked if he thought a war between China and the US was inevitable. He replied:

“Nothing is inevitable; but provocation can lead to miscalculation, mistake or accident, especially when ‘first strike’ safeguards have been removed from the deployment of nuclear weapons. My film is a warning”.

His film might be a warning, but its title is rather more than that. Also, early in the film (circa the six minute mark), Pilger entertains the question that the US “may already be at war” with China. My fear here is that Pilger is not really sure what he thinks on this subject—which is fine, we must all have our creative confusion, it’s necessary and productive, but you do not go about producing a “final” product like a film before you have finished thinking through key questions, and before you have made decisions about your basic terms of reference.

One review, not unsympathetic to Pilger, notes that Pilger “could – but doesn’t – point out how close America came to a nuclear strike on China during the Korean war”. Indeed, it would have been a very pertinent, very interesting addition to the film to document the instances in which post-revolutionary China and the US have actually come to direct blows already. Pilger missed a key opportunity to drive his point home and give his film greater focus.

A different review, in an Australian news outlet, saw the film in these terms: China has indeed been building up its military might in the South China Sea, but, “there’s another superpower making an even bigger play to stay top dog and many of us wouldn’t event realise,” that being the US which has ringed China with 400 US military installations. China is also seen as building up militarily, as a defensive reaction against the increasingly bellicose posture of the US.

For its part, RT simply amplified what it called the more “mind-boggling” aspects of Pilger’s film. RT, which aired the documentary and was promoting the film, was at least trying to balance media coverage by drawing attention to topics that other media usually ignore. Yet, a network whose banner slogan is “Question More,” could have afforded to raise at least one question about the film, if anything to promote dialogue and critical thinking.

Conclusion

This documentary will probably be of limited utility as required viewing in a course: given its gaps, limitations, and the shortcomings with its main argument, it would unnecessarily provoke a great deal of unproductive debate that could probably distract from the goals of a course. Instead, it could be recommended for optional individual viewing by students in classes dealing with international relations, geopolitics, and Asian studies. However, given the serious nature of the many shortcomings of this film, it is difficult to give this a score higher than 4/10.

(This documentary review forms part of the war and geopolitics series on Zero Anthropology. This documentary was viewed five times before the written review was published. All of the images above consist of still frames from the film, or the official advertising posters.)

Official Trailer

Watch the Complete Movie on Vimeo

Further Reading

About the Film:

Al Jazeera. (2017). “John Pilger Q&A: ‘US missiles are pointed at China’”. Al Jazeera, December 6.

Bradshaw, Peter. (2016). “The Coming War on China review – discomfiting doc exposes US nuclear tactics”. The Guardian, December 1.

Hammond, Jeremy R. (2017). “The Coming War on China: A Review of John Pilger’s Latest Documentary”. Foreign Policy Journal, September 27.

Hutt, David. (2016). “The Trouble With John Pilger’s The Coming War on China”. The Diplomat, December 23.

Killalea, Debra. (2017). “The Coming War on China: John Pilger asks is Beijing really the enemy?News.com.au, April 16.

Pilger, John. (n.d.) “The Coming War on China”. JohnPilger.com.

————— . (2016). “The Coming War on China – A New Pilger Film for TV and Cinema”. JohnPilger.com, November 19.

————— . (2016). “From this month’s guest editor: John Pilger”. New Internationalist, December 1.

————— . (2016). “The Coming War on China”. CounterPunch, December 2.

Quinn, Karl. (2017). “The Coming War on China: Pilger says US is real threat in the Pacific, not China”. Sydney Morning Herald, February 9.

RT. (2016). “5 mind-boggling things about ‘The Coming War on China’: Pilger’s documentary airs on RTD”. RT.com, December 10.

On Conflict between China and the US:

Buncombe, Andrew. (2016). “Henry Kissinger has ‘advised Donald Trump to accept’ Crimea as part of Russia”. The Independent, December 27.

Carter, Jimmy. (2019). “How to Repair the US-China Relationship – and Prevent a Modern Cold War”. Information Clearing House, January 2.

Continetti, Matthew. (2018). “The Great Wall of Democracy”. Washington Free Beacon, December 14.

Doan, Xuan Loc. (2018). “China’s new woes unravel Xi’s personality cult”. Asia Times, August 5.

Ferguson, Niall. (2018). “An ancient trap awaits China and US”. Boston Globe, May 7.

Jatras, Jim. (2018). “China on notice as America’s next big enemy, right after Russia”. RT.com, October 19.

Kazianis, Harry J. (2018). “The Coming American-Russian Alliance Against China”. The American Conservative, July 16.

Pei, Minxin. (2018). “The Shape of Sino-American Conflict”. Project-Syndicate, June 6.

Reuters. (2018). “U.S. security adviser Bolton vows tougher approach to China”. Reuters, October 12.

————— . (2018). “U.S. pledges nearly $300 million security funding for Southeast Asia”. Reuters, August 3.

RT. (2018). “China to be ‘1st mover’ in military hi-tech, US ‘perilously close’ to lag behind – ex-Deputy DefSec”. RT.com, June 26.

————— . (2018). “‘Systemic failure of world order’: Kissinger & elder statesmen take on modern challenges”. RT.com, January 25.

Salam, Reihan. (2018). “Normalizing Trade Relations With China Was a Mistake”. The Atlantic, June 8.

Suebsaeng, Asawin, et al. (2018). “Henry Kissinger Pushed Trump to Work With Russia to Box In China”. Daily Beast, July 25.

Xenakis, John J. (2017). “World View: Steve Bannon and Henry Kissinger Form Project to Sound Alarm on China”. Breitbart, September 30.

3 thoughts on “What are the Prospects for a US War with China?

  1. Dominic Pukallus

    Being from Canada I hope you may be familiar with the language of this article. I couldn’t find an English translation and really don’t have time to do one myself. Concerning the issue of poverty in China it is advanced that “Better to be born in China than India, where the infant death rate is four times higher. Indian life expectancy (67 years) is significantly inferior to the Chinese (76 years)”.
    Perhaps things may have been done better when lifting themselves out of object poverty, but the thesis of this article is that in contrast with the ostensibly Capitalist bent of Indian development it wouldn’t have been the Liberal way. I hope the opportunity exists to read the full article without translation issues, I found it fascinating. https://www.voltairenet.org/article203405.html

  2. Godfree Roberts

    “millions of Chinese were “lifted out of poverty,” but many more were left in poverty, and overall wealth inequality has increased.”?

    Not so. Sometime between 2020-2025 every Chinese will have a home, a job, plenty of food, education, safe streets, health and old age care.  On that day there will be more drug addicts, suicides and executions, more homeless, poor, hungry and imprisoned people in America than in China. 450,000,000 urban Chinese will have more net worth and disposable income than the average American, their mothers and infants will be less likely to die in childbirth, their children will graduate from high school three years ahead of–and outlive–American kids.

    Much of China’s GINI (inequality) gap is structural: their inland, rural populations have always been poorer than their urban, coastal cousins and, because the country couldn’t afford to build homes or cities fast enough, inlanders were held in place by residential hukous. Recently, however, economists[1] found that this aspect of inequality has been exaggerated because the cost of living in wealthy areas like Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen is much greater since urban land prices–not housing quality–are vastly higher. If we include the full range of goods and services whose price differ across areas (in rural areas basic foods cost half of Beijinbg’s prices), incomes from most rural areas should be multiplied by fifty percent to make them comparable.

    If we adjust for where people actually live the difference shrinks even further. Until recently, demographers counted people’s hukous–where they were registered to live rather than where they actually lived–but, migrant workers’ numbers rose to three hundred million in 2018, distorting the comparisons. In real life, the coastal provinces have millions more residents than their registered population and the reverse holds for migrant-sending inland provinces, so measures of inequality rose as each person moved from China’s interior to the coast because the migrant contributed to income in the coastal destination but was still counted as living in the origin, interior, area. Once this counting error is corrected, regional inequality in China is found to have declined at an average trend rate of 1.1 percent per year from 1978 to 2016. By 2002, fourteen Guizhou workers earned as much as an average[2] Shanghainese and by 2019 it took five. Nor was the structural gap as painful as it sounds: as far as everyone could see, everyone got richer every year. Villagers buying their first pickup truck found Shanghai lifestyles uninteresting because even at the bottom, things improved steadily.

    [1] Chao Li & John Gibson, 2014. ”Spatial Price Differences and Inequality in the People’s Republic of China: Housing Market Evidence,” Asian Development Review, MIT Press, vol. 31(1), pages 92-120, March.
    [2] China’s Got a $46,000 Wealth Gap Problem
    Bloomberg News
    May 21, 2018
    https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-05-20/china-s-wealth-gap-teslas-for-the-rich-footpaths-for-the-poor

    P.S. China’s model is NOT that of state capitalism. There’s much more to it than that..

    1. Maximilian C. Forte

      Well Godfree, the key line is this one: “Sometime between 2020-2025 every Chinese will have…”. You cannot use a predictive statement of what things might look like in the future, to describe what currently exists now, or what has been recent history. I’m not saying the prediction has no merit, it’s just an analytical point that needs to be made.

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